Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff to start rehab assignment Tuesday

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 10: Jerad Eickhoff #48 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the New York Mets during a game at Citizens Bank Park on April 10, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 10: Jerad Eickhoff #48 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the New York Mets during a game at Citizens Bank Park on April 10, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff will start his rehab assignment Tuesday in Double-A Reading as he gets closer to his 2018 debut.

Jerad Eickhoff has not pitched for the Phillies since spring training due to a lat strain. He has thrown some games in extended spring training in recent weeks, but his return to the majors is closer every day.

Eickhoff is taking a huge step towards that return this week as he will make a rehab assignment in Double-A Reading Tuesday. He was originally supposed to make the start Monday night, but rain pushed it back to Tuesday.

After missing the first month and a half of the season, Eickhoff will likely need one more rehab start before he comes back to the majors. First, we will have to see how this start goes. The team has said they aren’t going to rush him back.

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Whenever Eickhoff does return, the team hopes he will pitch like he did in 2016 rather than 2017 when he was limited by injuries. He finished 2017 with a 4.71 ERA and 1.52 WHIP after almost doubling his walk rate. Almost all of his numbers got worse in 2017, but the team is hoping it was due to injuries.

When Eickhoff does finish his rehab assignment, it’s up in the air where he will go.

Manager Gabe Kapler was non-committal about a return to the rotation for Eickhoff last week: [quote via Matt Breen of Philly.com]

"“The cool thing about the way our rotation is going right now is that we don’t have to make any decisions right now,” Kapler said. “We have plenty of time before we have to get to that and at this point we’re just happy with the way things are rolling and happy with how Eickhoff’s progressing and happy that are guys are coming together at the big-league level right now.”"

Right now, the rotation is the strength of the team. The trio of Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin have done a good job of supporting Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

Pivetta is having a significantly better year compared to last when he finished the season with a 6.02 ERA and near-10 percent walk rate. This year, Pivetta has dropped his ERA to 4.15 and dropped his walk rate to 6.1 percent. His fielding-independent pitching of 3.24 and skill-interactive ERA of 3.52 show Pivetta’s ERA should be even better.

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Velasquez’s ERA is fairly similar to his from last year, but his FIP is more than a run lower. He is striking out and walking about the same amount of batters he did in 2016.  His SIERA of 3.56 is lower than it ever has been in his career. Velasquez gave up three runs in the first two innings of his last start but finished it strong, racking up 12 strikeouts over six innings.

Eflin would be the one most vulnerable to being replaced, but he also has done well so far this year. He allowed just one run after five perfect innings in his first start, then tossed 6.2 shutout innings in his next one. He had his last start skipped after Saturday’s rainout.

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Like Kapler said, we don’t have to worry about where Eickhoff will go just yet. Something may come up that allows Eickhoff to slide back in, but we will see when we get there.

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